Panamanian native finally sails through Canal
MMA cadet Sergio Allard, from Panama scans the harbor at Cristobal for the pilot boat carrying the pilot who will guide the Enterprise through the canal. The ship started the canal transit at 6:18 p.m. and arrived at dockage on the other side at 4:30 a.m.
ABOARD T.S. ENTERPRISE – Sergio Allard, 20, was born in Chiriqui, Panama, and raised in Panama City. Yet he had never been through the Panama Canal before this year’s Massachusetts Maritime Academy Sea Term voyage.
“Even though I live here, it’s going to be my first transit through the canal,” he said last week. “I’m very excited.”
That made him about as common as a New Yorker who hasn’t gone to the top of the Empire State Building – which is to say common enough.
But Allard is not from any ordinary family. His uncle, Capt. Orlando Allard, is president of Panama’s maritime academy, the Universidad Maritima Internacional de Panama, established only about three years ago.
Allard’s uncle graduated from MMA about 30 years ago, became a pilot in Panama for two decades, headed up the country’s training department for new pilots and now runs the university, Allard said.
The younger Allard, a junior, wanted to be a mechanical engineer or an aviator when he was younger. “I never thought about going to the sea.”
He considered MMA only after his uncle suggested the Buzzards Bay school.
“I didn’t say no,” Allard said. “I wanted to try something new, so I went for it.”
He goes home twice a year but being away from family has been hard. He also had to make major adjustments for cultural differences, linguistic challenges and the maritime academy’s regimented lifestyle.
“It taught me so many things about my life, my career, my family,” he said of MMA. “It’s an amazing experience.”